Why can't you park Bird and Lime scooters on the Tempe campus anymore?

The companies have voluntarily paused service while ASU develops a better scooter infrastructure

ASU has requested that electric dockless scooter companies such as Bird and Lime keep their scooters off campus while the University explores longer term solutions for the companies.

Talks of the change surfaced in a Reddit post last Saturday when students found that the entire Tempe campus on the Bird and Lime apps was covered in red, accompanied by a message saying that the University has asked riders not to ride or park their scooters on campus. The Lime app even mentioned possibility of fines. 

The red zone extends as far north as Tempe Town Lake and as far east as McClintock Drive, covering most campus property in the city. 

Bird's website includes a list of universities that have its scooters. ASU, which was once on the list, has disappeared. 

"The electric scooters that have recently become ubiquitous around Tempe and the ASU campus are a nuisance and potential danger when operated without the proper training and education," a University spokesperson said in a statement. 

The spokesperson added that the University's Tempe Campus Transportation Code, last updated in November 2008, prohibits the use of "nonpedestrian devices and vehicles" and specifically motorized scooters. ASU reached out to the dockless scooter companies to remind them of this policy and ask them to notify customers of this change.

"ASU expects it will receive the full cooperation of the companies operating scooters near its campuses," the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said that ASU sees the potential value and convenience in the scooters, and it will be talking with student government leaders and the city of Tempe to prioritize safety for everyone.

"The University will soon begin an educational campaign on the rules surrounding vehicles such as the electric scooters now blanketing the area," the spokesperson said.

A statement from Bird says that the red zone allows time to determine how Bird will fit into ASU. The company is working with the University to find a long-term solution.

Bird is using geofencing technology that allows the company to create a no-ride and no-park zone across the ASU Tempe campus. Bird scooters will slow down upon entering ASU, and it is impossible to officially end a ride on campus. 

Bird has implemented similar systems on the Santa Monica Boardwalk and in other portions of Los Angeles to clear bike paths and respond to local complaints. 

Bird said that any scooter on ASU's Tempe campus was ridden onto campus and incorrectly left there. According to Bird, the riders of these scooters will be continuously charged until they stop the ride, which they will have to do off campus. 

Additionally, Bird said users cannot start rides on scooters found on campus.

Riders can be reported for parking in red zones, but there are no fines from the company directly, Bird said. 

Bird employs chargers who pick up the scooters nightly. The chargers are unable to leave Birds at ASU because it is a red zone. Over time, the company said the chargers should clean up the remaining ASU Tempe campus scooters.

Bird is clear that it complies with local laws, adding that it is aware that regulations aren’t the same across the country and aims to find an infrastructure that works for the University. 

Lime was not available to comment, so the exact consequences for leaving a Lime scooter on campus are unclear. However, a notification appears on the app warning riders that they may incur a fine for parking on campus.

Olivia Poulter, a senior studying dance, witnessed the scooters' rise and fall on campus. While she never rode one herself, she said she is annoyed with the scooters being left all over the place and thinks the ban is a good decision.

Read more: Are dockless scooters a public nuisance?

Poulter said she believes the scooter companies aren’t at fault. Rather, she said inconsiderate riders need to be more aware. She said one solution would be to relegate the scooters to certain areas on campus.

“There needs to be a specified area like bike racks, but for scooters so they're just out of the way,” Poulter said. “I don't mind at all that they're around, they just get in the way when people leave them in pathways, but if it's regulated and enforced it’s a super good thing.”

Some cities, such as Santa Monica, have created scooter parking and lanes for Birds. Bird is a dockless service, but cities are free to implement systems like this. This means ASU could hypothetically create parking zones and lanes for scooters.

Purneet Pabla, a freshman studying business law, used a Lime scooter on the Tempe campus on Oct. 14 despite the ban.

“I’ve been using them every morning to go to class because my farthest class is 15 minutes and at 9 a.m. (and) it’s pretty hot,” he said. “I don't want to walk, so I just ride (rentable scooters) to class.”

Pabla said the ban is frustrating, but he doesn't plan to stop using the scooters because it “beats walking.”

“Having that non-parking really does suck,” Pabla said. “I got a notification on my phone today that I might be fined for parking it here, and I was like ‘What the hell’ because it doesn’t make much sense.”

Pabla said he doubts that this ban will be very successful and doesn't think it's the correct solution.

“I mean sure it'll work, but not to the extent they want because (people) are still going to park it here," he said. "Even though I was in the red zone, I was still able to park it, so I feel like people will just keep doing what they do."

Reach the reporter at egilchr1@asu.edu or follow @Ethan_G45 on Twitter.

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